It was still cold the day I noticed that in spite of an unyielding winter determined to wear out its welcome, the local hardware store had taken a leap of faith by filling its storefront and walkway with a grand display of all things summer. I saw birdbaths, a gleaming row of new lawnmowers, and a stack of wading pools depicting smiling cartoon elephants spraying water on laughing cartoon hippos. Closest to the sidewalk was a row of huge, bright red wheelbarrows with glossy black wheels, price tags swinging in the still chilly breeze.
As I hurried past the hopeful display and on to the grocery store one building over, I passed a small boy waiting for his father who was busy admiring an array of shiny new grills. The father turned to catch up to his son who had stopped at the row of red wheelbarrows. With both of his little hands gripping the side of one wheelbarrow, the boy stood on his tiptoes to peer over the edge.
“It’s a toy?” he asked into the empty wheelbarrow.
“No.” the father said as he took the boy’s hand to lead him into the hardware store. “You only use that for work.”
“It’s a toy.” the boy said with conviction.
“No, it’s not.” the father repeated. “It’s only for work.”
“No, it’s not.” I thought to myself. “It’s not only for work.”
One of my earliest childhood memories is of my grandmother, Nannie, helping me and a cousin into her wheelbarrow for a ride. She pushed us to the pear trees in the pasture where we helped her pick up fallen fruit. Riding back to her farmhouse in a pile of pears, we held on to the sides of the wheelbarrow during the bumpy ride and pretended we were on a boat. That was no wheelbarrow only for work. It was a toy.
As older kids, cousins and I took turns pushing each other in the random wheelbarrow that always leaned against Nannie’s barn, maybe the chicken house, or sometimes left under a tree. If lucky, we came across two wheelbarrows and races began. Those wheelbarrows were not only for work. They were cars or planes or motorcycles. They were toys.
My aunt Noody once gave me and my cousins a package of little plastic sailboats. Having nowhere to float them, we soon lost interest until Noody suddenly appeared with her old wheelbarrow. As we watched, puzzled, Noody unrolled her garden hose and filled the wheelbarrow with water. Instant lake! Her old wheelbarrow was not only for work. It was a toy.
Years passed and when my own two kids were small I spent as much time behind the wheelbarrow as I ever had inside the wheelbarrow. I pushed first one, then the other, but usually both at the same time. The wheelbarrow became a train, a rocket, and once it was a dinosaur they rode. The wheelbarrow was not only for work. It was a toy.
I was still thinking about these examples as I left the grocery store and headed back towards the summer display next door. As timing would have it, the little boy and his father were leaving the hardware store when I approached. As the father walked on ahead, the little boy lagged behind just a bit when he got to the wheelbarrow display. Once again, he gripped the side of a huge red wheelbarrow and craned his neck to peer over the edge.
The little boy looked up and grinned at me as I neared him. His little hands never let loose their grip on the edge, but one tiny finger rose up and pointed down into the wheelbarrow.
“It’s a toy?” he asked as I walked closer.
I leaned down just a bit as I reached where he stood.
“Yes, it’s a toy.” I said grinning as I walked past.
Stuart M. Perkins
63 responses to “A Load of Fun”
Beautifully crafted story! Everything is transformative, gripped in the hands of a child.
Thank you for liking “Spring Is Here!” What a nice story! 🙂 It brings back memories of the multipurpose toys that my brothers and I used when we were children.
I really wish you could share pictures on the comments. I have a great one for this.
I enjoyed reading this – brings back many happy childhood memories as well as more recent ones with the grandchildren
Love it. What a fulfilling ending!
This is beautiful and heartwarming. I think that deep in his heart, the father knew that the wheelbarrow was a toy. However, he did not want to do the work to make the wheelbarrow the fun toy that it is supposed to be for children. 🙂
Reblogged this on Rr1photography – Portrait and Landscape Photography.
Great story. When my kids were small I enjoyed pointing out ‘sculptures’ in the landscape, such as the bright blue tanks of the local farm, or the rows of pylons across a hillside.
That’s it. I have to follow your blog. I love your stories. And they’re beautifully written too.
Love it! Well written. Thinking of my own boys… Everything to them is a toy. Need to try to see it that way more often…
Great story. Thanks for sharing. Oh to continually have the heart and perspective of a child would be very challenging but worth it. Jesus even said, “unless you have faith like a child you can’t enter the Kingdom of Heaven.”
Reblogged this on TransLegal and commented:
Happy New Year! I thought I’d start 2015 by re-blogging a story by Stuart Perkins (Storyshucker) that, to me, is about perspective! Enjoy!
great story you got here 🙂